WATCH: Walsall alarm service ditched despite protests
A ‘lifeline’ alarm system which helps people access care has been scrapped and branded ‘not fit for purpose’.
Walsall’s Community Alarm Service allows people to press a button on a device around their neck in the event of a fall, accident or medical emergency.
This would contact a 24-hour helpline with details of the person’s name, address, doctor, relatives and any other relevant medical information.
But the service has now been ditched over its £1.3 million a year cost.
WATCH: Protestors' anger at service cut
The authority’s cabinet approved the decision at a meeting on Wednesday night, which will mean people using the service will now have to find their own alarm and provider.
The service will be cut off in the ‘imminent future’, the council confirmed.
Councillor Rose Martin, the council’s adult social care boss, said: “The service is no longer fit for service without significant investment that the council does not have.
“Our research of other areas indicates there’s no authority, whether local or national, which does not levy a charge on this service.
"Whilst we recognise the value of this service to our citizens, the continued offer of a service for free is not viable.
“Our customers will be encouraged to purchase the service from one of the many national or local providers.”
Around 7,000 people use the alarm system, which provides a 24/7 care service for people who need extra support.
Before Wednesday night’s meeting, dozens of protestors rallied outside the town’s council house to demand the alarm service be kept.
The protest was led by Walsall Pensioners’ Convention.
The group’s secretary, 70-year-old, Andrea Stanton, said: “We’ve got a couple of members, maybe more, that use the community alarm.
"One member was lying in the garden because he had left his alarm inside the house and fell.
“Another member has frequent falls and relies on the community alarm and my mother when she was at home, she would’ve lay on the floor for 24 hours without one.
“She would not have been able to pay for it because she only got a basic pension – it’s going to cost an arm and a leg.
"Even seven pounds a week is a big chunk out of your pension. People will have a choice – do I have this alarm or pay for nutritious food or heating? It’s going to have an impact.
“I’m very angry over the decision. A lot of older people have no family and the older pensioners need it more and more. They are now completely alone in the world and that was their lifeline.”
Other protestors on the night included Walsall’s former mayor Pete Smith.
He described the decision to scrap the alarm service as a ‘major political mistake’, adding: “We do not want to see a situation where what the Saddlers Centre was for the Labour Party, the Community Alarm System will be to the Conservatives.”
But council leader Mike Bird has defended the decision. He said: “Sadly over many years the reinvestment in the hardware has not been made so the alarm system is now no longer fit for purpose. Having a service not fit for purpose could put our residents at risk and we can’t afford to do that. I’m aware that you can purchase a better service for as little as £4.
“Unfortunately the word ‘free’ is something we can no longer cope with.
“At this point in time, it is expensive and unfortunately this is a service no longer fit for service.”